Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy to dissect balance sheets, income, and cash flow statements. This is the first step in getting your feet wet in the investment world.
But it doesn't stop there. What many investors fail to notice -- while their heads are buried in these financial documents -- is that companies are made up of living, breathing human beings. In fact, many people would argue that a company itself is a living organism.
Simply using financial statements alone to make investment decisions would be like picking a football team based simply on 40-yard-dash times and bench-press results. Too many powerful intangibles are present to ignore these types of "soft" measurements. As I've shown, these measurements can be important for investors.
Although I can't capture all of these intangibles in one article, Glassdoor.com -- a website that collects employee sentiment for companies across the world -- recently came out with a list that could help: The Top CEOs of 2013.
I've narrowed the list down to companies that are publicly traded on American stock exchanges, and below are the companies with CEOs No. 25 through 21 this year. Read below and I’ll give some more detail, and at the end, I'll offer up a special premium report on one of these five.
No. 25: JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM)
CEO Jamie Dimon was placed on a golden throne after his bank was able to navigate the fiscal crisis of 2008-2009 without much damage done or reliance on federal bailouts to keep JPMorgan afloat.
That goodwill lasted a long time, but, alas, Dimon finally ran into a stumbling block in 2012 -- the London Whale incident. Some investors are now asking for Dimon to be shown the door, but that doesn't mean his employees agree, as 87% approve of the job he's doing right now.
No. 24: Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT)
Douglas Oberhelman has been at the helm of Caterpillar since just 2010, but has been with the company since 1975. In Oberhelman's short tenure as CEO, he has led by example, most notably in taking sole responsibility for the company's 80% writedown in being scammed and overpaying for a strategic acquisition in China in 2010.
Apparently, that type of up-front honesty, as well as Oberhelman's extensive tenure at the company, has endeared him to employees, as 89% of them approve of the job he's doing for one of the world's largest machinery manufacturers.
No. 23: Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN)
There's nothing wrong with keeping it in the family here, as Nordstrom's CEO -- Blake Nordstrom -- comes from the namesake family. Nordstrom has been at the helm of the retailer for 13 years now, and has worked within the company since 1975.
That experience has paid off. While competitors like Macy's have seen revenues rise just 5% since 2008, Nordstrom's has been able to increase its top line by almost 34%. Investors have benefited, too, as the stock has beaten the S&P 500 by more than 400 percentage points during Nordstrom's tenure. Employees are obviously happy, too: 90% approve of the job Nordstrom is doing.
No. 22: PNC Financial (NYSE:PNC)
CEO Jim Rohr has been with PNC, or its related affiliates, since 1972. He has been at the helm of the bank since May 2000. Named American Banker's Banker of the Year in 2007, Rohr is the second CEO of a major financial bank to make the list.
It's important to note, however, that Rohr has already announced that he will be stepping down as CEO in April, and will be replaced by PNC's president, William Demchak. Demchak has been with PNC since 2002, after coming over from JPMorgan. He'll have big shoes to fill, as a full 90% of PNC employees approved of the job Rohr has done.
No. 21: FedEx (NYSE:FDX)
Rounding out this part of the list is FedEx CEO Fred Smith. Smith is the founder of FedEx, coming up with the idea for the company while writing a term paper at Yale (incidentally, his roommate at the time was former President George W. Bush). He allegedly funded the beginning of the business by making a trip to Las Vegas and winning $20,000 to put into the company.
From that storybook beginning, Smith has built an international juggernaut. Not content to rest on those laurels, he has been phasing in the use of electric and natural-gas vehicles to fuel his fleets. That kind of forward thinking, as well as Smith's integral ties to the company, has led to a 91% approval rating among employees.
Any common themes here?
If there's one thing that should stick out to investors from these first five, it's this: These CEOs have their company's blood running through their veins. Taken together, the average tenure at these five companies is 35 years. There's clearly something to say for continuity.